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Stop Land Grabbing Now: Global Uprising Against Land Grabbing


27 April 2010

By La Via Campesina

Say NO to the principles of “responsible” agro-enterprise investment promoted by the World Bank

State and private investors, from Citadel Capital to Goldman Sachs, are leasing or buying up tens of millions of hectares of farmlands in Asia, Africa and Latin America for food and fuel production. This land grabbing is a serious threat for the food sovereignty of our peoples and the right to food of our rural communities. In response to this new wave of land grabbing, the World Bank (WB) is promoting a set of seven principles to guide such investments and make them  successful. The FAO, IFAD and UNCTAD have agreed to join the WB in collectively pushing these principles. [1] Their starting point is the fact that the current rush of private sector interest to buy up farmland is risky. After all, the WB has just finalised a study showing the magnitude of this trend and its central focus on transferring rights over agricultural land in developing countries to foreign investors. The WB seems convinced that all private capital flows to expand global agribusiness operations where they  have not yet taken hold are good and must be allowed to proceed so that the corporate sector can extract more wealth from the countryside. Since these investment deals are hinged on massive privatisation and transfer of land rights, the WB wants them to meet a few criteria to reduce the risks of social backlash: respect the rights of existing users of land, water and other resources (by paying them off); protect and improve livelihoods at the household and community level (provide jobs and social services); and do no harm to the environment. These are the core ideas behind the WB's seven principles for socially acceptable land grabbing.

These principles will not accomplish their ostensible objectives. They are rather a move to try to  legitimize land grabbing. Facilitating the long-term corporate (foreign and domestic) takeover of rural people's farmlands is completely unacceptable no matter which guidelines are followed. The WB's principles, which would be entirely voluntary, aim to distract from the fact that today's global food crisis, marked by more than 1 billion people going hungry each day, will not be solved by large scale industrial agriculture, which virtually all of these land acquisitions aim to promote.

Land grabbing has already started to intensify in many countries over  the past 10-15 years with the adoption of deregulation policies, trade and investment agreements, and market oriented governance reforms. The recent food and financial crises have provided the impetus for a surge in  land grabbing by governments and financial investors trying to secure agricultural production capacity and future food supplies as well as assets that are sure to fetch high returns.  Wealthy  governments have sought to lease agricultural lands for long periods of time to feed their populations and industries back home.  At the  same time, corporations are seeking long term economic concessions for plantation agriculture to produce agro-fuels, rubber, oils, etc. These trends are also visible in coastal areas, where land, marine resources and water bodies are being sold, leased, or developed for tourism to corporate investors and local elites, at the expense of artisanal fishers and coastal communities. One way or the other, agricultural lands and forests are being diverted away from smallhold producers, fishers and pastoralists to commercial  purposes, and leading to displacement, hunger and poverty.

With the current farmland grab,  corporate driven globalisation has reached a new phase  that will undermine peoples’ self-determination, food sovereignty and survival as never before. The WB and many governments see land and rights to land, as a crucial asset base for corporations seeking high returns on capital since land is not only the basis for producing food and raw materials for the new energy economy, but also a way to capture  water.  Land is being revalued on purely economic terms by the WB, governments and corporations and in the process, the multi-functionality, and ecological, social and cultural values of land are being negated.  It is thus more important than ever that these resources are defended from corporate and state predation and instead be made available to those who need them to feed themselves and others sustainably, and to survive as communities and societies.

Land grabbing – even where there are no related forced evictions - denies land for local communities, destroys livelihoods, reduces the political space for peasant oriented agricultural policies and distorts markets towards increasingly concentrated agribusiness interests and global trade rather than towards sustainable peasant/smallhold production for local and national markets.   Land grabbing will  accelerate eco-system destruction and the climate crisis because of the type of monoculture oriented, industrial agricultural production that many of these “acquired” lands will be used for. Promoting or permitting land grabbing violates the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and  undermines the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Land grabbing ignores the principles adopted by the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) in 2006 and the recommendations made by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).

Land grabbing must be immediately stopped. The WB’s principles attempt to create the illusion that land grabbing can proceed without disastrous consequences to peoples, communities, eco-systems and the climate. This illusion is false and misleading. Farmer's and indigenous peoples organisations, social movements and civil society groups largely agree that what we need instead is to: 

  1. Keep land in the hands of local communities and implement genuine agrarian reform in order to ensure equitable access to land and natural resources.
  2. Heavily support agro-ecological peasant, smallhold farming, fishing and pastoralism, including participatory research and training programmes  so that small-scale food providers  can produce ample, healthy and safe food for everybody.
  3. Overhaul farm and trade policies to embrace food sovereignty and support local and regional markets that people can participate in and benefit from.
  4. Promote community-oriented food and farming systems hinged on local people's control over land, water and biodiversity. Enforce strict mandatory regulations that curb the access of corporations and other powerful actors (state and private) to agricultural, coastal and grazing lands, forests, and wetlands.

No principles in the world can justify land grabbing!

Global uprising against land grabbing

Social movements denounce World Bank strategy on land grabbing

On 26 April 2010, the World Bank is opening a major two-day conference on land at its headquarters in Washington DC. Seated at the table will be governments, donor agencies, researchers, CEOs and non-government organisations. The main topic of discussion? How to harness the fresh wads of cash being put on the table to build agribusiness operations on huge areas of farmland in developing countries, especially in Africa. The Bank calls these farm acquisitions "agricultural investment". Social movements call them "land grabbing".

At the meeting, the Bank will release a long-awaited study on this new land grabbing trend. Apart from assessing how many hectares are being bought and sold where, why and through whom, the Bank will present its solution to the risks and concerns raised by foreign investors -- from George Soros to Libya's sovereign wealth fund to China's telecoms giant ZTE -- taking control of overseas farmland to produce food for export: a set of "principles" for all players to follow. The FAO, UNCTAD and IFAD have agreed to support the Bank in advocating these "principles".

La Vía Campesina, FIAN, Land Research Action Network and GRAIN have produced a joint statement outlining how the Bank's initiative will only serve to facilitate land grabbing and why it must be stopped. Over 100 other social organisations and movements have formally associated themselves with the statement as co-sponsors. Today and in the coming days, many groups will be speaking out against the current land grabbing trend and explaining how the real solution to feeding our world lies in supporting community-based family farming for local and regional markets -- not industrial farming for global agribusiness.

We invite all interested groups and individuals to join forces with us and speak out from your own experience.

The LVC-FIAN-LRAN-GRAIN statement, together with the list of co-sponsors, is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish at
http://www.grain.org/o/?id=102.
If you wish to register your own support for the statement you can post a comment at
http://farmlandgrab.org/12200
or send an email to info@farmlandgrab.org and we will post it for you.

Simultaneous media events and actions are taking place in Washington DC and many other towns and cities across the world. For information on the Washington DC events or how to talk to activists from the affected countries, please contact Kathy Ozer of the National Family Farm Coalition for La Via Campesina (mobile: +1-202-421-4544, email: kozer@nffc.net) or Devlin Kuyek at GRAIN (mobile: +1-514-571-7702, email: devlin@grain.org).

Media reports and further inputs and actions from different groups joining this movement will be collated online at
http://farmlandgrab.org.

Further references

- The World Bank's land conference webpage is:
http://go.worldbank.org/67YHA6L0K0.
The conference papers are being posted online at:
http://go.worldbank.org/IN4QDO1U10

- La Via Campesina is the international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers with 148 members in 69 countries:
http://www.viacampesina.org.

- FIAN (FoodFirst Information and Action Network) is an international human rights organisation with members and sections in 50 countries to advocate for the realisation of the right to food:
http://www.fian.org.

- LRAN (Land Research Action Network) is a network of researchers and social movements committed to the promotion of individuals' and communities' right to land:
http://www.landaction.org.

- GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems: http:// www.grain.org and
http://farmlandgrab.org.

 

 

 

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